In the realm of musical biopics, one of the most obvious ideas that has been kicked around for years is a movie about legendary rock band Queen and their infamous frontman Freddie Mercury. With a list of hits a few miles long, including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Killer Queen,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Champions,” a film that delves into the group’s rise to stardom and all of the problems they faced during this time could make for a hell of a project. Music lovers finally got their wish this past year with the release of Bryan Singer’s simply-titled “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but could it possibly live up to the expectations of those who’ve been waiting for ages to see this story told?
Starting in 1970, we meet young Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek), a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport who suddenly finds himself the lead singer of a band called Smile, following the sudden departure of their former frontman. The group changes their name to “Queen” and plays concerts across Britain, eventually landing them a big contract to produce their first album. Around this time, Farrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury, and the album becomes a hit, leading them to their first US tour. As their fame skyrockets over the next several years, tensions begin to rise in the group, especially when Freddie signs a deal to make a solo album in the early 80s. However the chance for reconciliation comes when they’re offered a spot in one of the biggest musical events of all time: the Live Aid charity concert. As they say, the rest is history.
As mentioned, the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury seemed to have unlimited potential, what with their massive popularity, multiple hits, and the intriguing personal life of Mercury himself. All of this potential makes it rather disappointing to find that the finished product plays more like a greatest hits medley, jumping from song to song, with hardly a thing to say about the band or its members. That’s not to say that it doesn’t try to touch on some of the private aspects of Mercury’s life, but unfortunately it feels like a sanitized version, exploring those aspects in a mostly superficial manner.
What the film does have going for it though is the spectacular performance of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. The makeup and costume teams were able to get the look down just right, but that was the easy part. Working with a movement coach, Malek was able to nail down Mercury’s mannerisms on stage, while also delivering great work in the film’s more dramatic moments. It’s well known that Sacha Baron Cohen was originally supposed to take on the role before he left due to disagreements with the script, and while he no doubt would have been fantastic, it certainly seems like no one else could’ve done nearly as fine a job as Malek does here.
In particular, his performance truly comes to a head during the film’s incredible closing sequence: a recreation of Queen’s stunning performance at the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985. The cast and crew have brilliantly brought this concert to life, getting every movement down, and even recreating small details from the performance that most won’t even notice are included. It’s quite simply a joyous sequence to watch, especially for those who’ve been fans of Queen’s music for so long, bringing a troubled film to a close on a wonderful high note.
With Malek’s remarkable performance and the spectacular celebration of Queen’s legacy in the closing Live Aid performance, it really makes you wish that the rest of the film had been able to live up to its more distinguished elements. A biopic of Queen should be more than a greatest hits medley that scarcely touches on the details of its subject. As others have pointed out, it should’ve been a “warts and all” film that fully delves into this magnificent band. There is no band out there quite like Queen, and certainly no frontman quite like the great Freddie Mercury. “Bohemian Rhapsody” may have twinges of greatness to it, but unfortunately that potential never gets fully realized, ultimately leaving behind a mostly forgettable musical biopic.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Every frame of this musical biopic is beautifully sharp and clear, highlighting the film’s exquisite production and costume design. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is outstanding, giving you all of the dialogue, and more importantly, the brilliant Queen soundtrack, in fantastic quality. Overall, the film has been given marvelous treatment, leaving you with a top-notch experience in both departments.
The Complete Live Aid Movie Performance (22 Minutes): The complete cut of the film’s most extraordinary sequence: a recreation of Queen’s infamous Live Aid performance.
Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie (16 Minutes): A great featurette that explores Rami Malek’s transformation into Freddie Mercury, featuring interviews with cast and crew.
The Look and Sound of Queen (22 Minutes): A featurette that delves behind the scenes of the making of the film, including casting the roles of Queen.
Recreating Live Aid (20 Minutes): As the title implies, this is a fascinating behind the scenes look at how the filmmakers recreated Queen’s incredible Live Aid performance.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” features a fantastic lead performance from Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and ends on a wonderful high note with a recreation of the band’s performance at Live Aid, but sadly the rest of the film doesn’t live up to its greater elements, playing more as a greatest hits medley that has little to say about Queen or its members. One can’t help but feel that the film is a big missed opportunity to tell this band’s remarkable story, for with all of its amazing potential, this really could’ve been something special, instead of a forgettable biopic.